VANCOUVER – British Columbia’s south coast is known for its temperate weather and mild winters, but that norm was replaced with lower temperatures Friday as snow blanketed the region for the second time in less than a week.
Monday’s flurries marked the first time a significant amount of snow fell on Metro Vancouver in over two years, causing widespread traffic delays and prompting the closure of several schools.
Earlier this week, Environment Canada anticipated a considerable amount of snow to hit the region starting Thursday evening, but the weather agency later dialled back its forecast.
Snowfall amounts for most of Metro Vancouver stood at about five centimetres. East Vancouver Island had the most snow by midday, with accumulations approaching 10 centimetres.
“We’re expecting a little less than originally anticipated because last night’s snow didn’t materialize until this morning,” Matt MacDonald, a meteorologist with Environment Canada, said on Friday.
Lower-lying areas in Metro Vancouver and near Victoria were expected to see snow begin mixing with rain, he added.
“Temperatures are right around freezing, which makes it difficult to forecast,” MacDonald said.
Vancouver Island received the brunt of the snowfall on Friday morning, with 12 centimetres of snow on the Malahat highway and the Cowichan Valley, and coastal communities experiencing between five and 10 centimetres.
The snow caused traffic delays for evening commuters and some crashes in parts of Metro Vancouver, where the morning rush was lighter than usual as many people stayed home to work or took the day off.
Concerns about road conditions meant Simon Fraser University cancelled exams after 3:30 p.m. at its campuses in Vancouver, Surrey and Burnaby and also required staff who were not critical to operations to leave the sites.
A number of buses were rerouted or delayed while the Expo and Millennium SkyTrain lines were running at reduced service.
The provincial government worked to keep two of the Lower Mainland’s main bridges open by focusing efforts to prevent ice from forming on the structures’ crossbeams and cables and falling on passing vehicles.
On the Alex Fraser Bridge, the province said a de-icing agent was applied and there was no accumulation of snow or ice on its crossbeams on Friday morning. There was also no accumulation on the Port Mann Bridge’s 288 cables.
Dozens of vehicles were damaged on Monday, leading to 80 insurance claims and prompting a pledge from the province to cover the deductible payments of those affected.
MacDonald said a weekend of snow and rain would lead to a period of uncharacteristically low temperatures as an Arctic air mass moves into the region, bringing with it temperatures up to 15 degrees lower than the yearly norm.
Deep-freeze conditions will come to an end in mid-January, when the weather is expected to return to the yearly normal, he added.
BC Hydro said the dip in temperatures this week increased electricity usage by 12 per cent across the province as demand reached a new high for 2016.